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Preston primary pupils on dream trip to London with Virgin Trains

Press Release   •   May 19, 2014 10:27 BST

Virgin Trains have stepped in to provide complimentary travel to London for a class of 25 seven- and eight-year-old pupils this Friday following an appeal to Sir Richard Branson.

Simon Rusling, deputy headteacher at Holme Slack Community Primary School in Preston, suggested writing to the Virgin boss after concluding that the school, which is in an area of multiple deprivation, would not be able to provide transport for an educational trip.

The Year 3 class are studying the lives and times of the Vikings and one of the pupils found out about the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition at the British Museum.

Mr Rusling said this had sent the children “into a frenzy” of excitement and described Virgin Trains’ intervention as “extremely generous and much more than we expected”.

After the children wrote letters to Sir Richard, Virgin Trains contacted the school offering to sponsor the whole trip on Friday, May 23, providing free transport on their Preston to London Euston service for all the children and 11 accompanying staff.

The company also got in touch with Go-Ahead London who agreed to supply a bus to give the children a whistle stop tour of London after their visit to the British Museum to ensure they really do have a day to remember. Preston Bus is also helping out by providing free transport from the school to Preston Station.

Mr Rusling said: “This is a rare opportunity for the children to experience London. Many of them have never been before. In our school, we are always looking for ways to bring life to the curriculum.

“The opportunity to see this amazing exhibition will enrich our Viking topic immensely. The children can’t wait to see some of the incredible artefacts, many of which have been transported from all over the world to appear in Britain for the first time. The exhibition features the remains of the longest Viking long boat ever found.

“I suggested writing a letter to Virgin’s boss after breaking the news to the children that the school would not be able to take the class to London. The response from Virgin Trains has been extremely generous and much more than we expected. We held an open morning in school to make the announcement to the children and their parents. 

“It will be a long and tiring day for the children. Preston Bus, who are also providing free transport, are picking the children up at around 6:15am in order to catch the train at 6:57am. The children are extremely excited and can’t wait for what is sure to be a fantastic and memorable day. We can’t thank Virgin enough.”

Stuart Davison, Customer Experience Manager for Lancashire, added: “We’re really pleased the kids got in touch and we’ve been able to help them out.

“Our staff area really looking forward to welcoming them on board and giving them a day to remember.”

Colin Farrant, Go Ahead London's commercial manager, said: "Go-Ahead London is delighted to be providing, as part of the children's visit a trip across London on one of our modern red double deck buses, giving a superb view of many of London's most famous landmarks." 

Ends

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Virgin Trains has revolutionised rail travel by creating a high speed, high frequency service that has cut journey times and made rail journeys more comfortable. It has operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997, serving key UK cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow.

Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded VRG a franchise contract, which started on 9 December 2012 and was initially due to run for up to 23 months. The Transport Secretary announced on 26 March 2013 that it will be extended until April 2017, when a new long-term West Coast franchise is expected to start.

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous awards. In October 2013 Business Traveller magazine readers voted the company the Best UK Domestic Rail Operator for the seventh year running. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which it also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction.

Customers consistently rate the company the top long-distance rail franchise operator, as measured by the National Passenger Survey (NPS) run by industry watchdog Passenger Focus. In the most recent NPS (Autumn 2013) overall satisfaction was 91%, meaning the company has remained unbeaten over nine successive surveys in the long-distance franchise category.

Virgin Trains was awarded certification to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard in January 2014.

Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011 and again in October 2013. In May 2013 Virgin Trains renewed its accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model, which it originally achieved in May 2011. The company’s Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.

For more information about Virgin Trains visit the company’s website www.virgintrains.com or the Media Room website www.virgintrains.com/mediaroom.